When Research In Motion named Thorsten Heins as its new CEO, it faced some criticism for how long the move took and that he may not represent the change that is really needed over in Waterloo. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, RIM director Roger Martin is defending the move by saying an outside CEO probably won’t be the cure what what ails RIM.
“So we’re supposed to hand it over to children, or morons from the outside who will destroy the company?” Martin said during an interview. “Or should we try to build our way to having succession?”
Martin says that there was no one who could truly replace the former co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie until Heins joined a few years ago. To be fair, the pair did help build the BlackBerry brand from nothing into a multi-billion dollar company and a source of national pride for Canada but it’s clear that the company hasn’t been able to formulate and execute a strategy which will help it be more competitive with Apple, Android and others. Martin does also make a salient point about the constant requests to be more like the company from Cupertino.
“They ask ‘Why can’t you be more like Apple?’ So we should go bankrupt and fire our founders and bring in a moron? That’s what we should do?” Martin said.
While that’s a cute point about Apple, it did move through that period and is now loaded with cash/a> – it’s stock just topped $500 today compared to the $15 or so that RIM’s stock is worth. Martin says that Dell, HP and Apple sought outside CEOs with disastrous results but it doesn’t even seem like RIM considered this possibility and I feel this is a major mistake.
The landscape is shifting dramatically, as the smartphone market is booming but we’re still just in the beginning phases of the larger shift toward mobile computing primarily on tablets and having everything being connected. It’s a rough business too, as Apple and Samsung are taking 95 percent of the profits in mobile, while Google and Microsoft are smartly positioning itself to be significant players who may monetize through services and advertising. Meanwhile, RIM and its “stay the course” strategy seem more and more out of touch.
Nokia has also been in troubled waters and it decided that it needed an outsider’s perspective to move forward when it hired Stephen Elop as CEO. He’s betting the company on the success of Windows Phone (or selling to Microsoft) and it’s too soon to tell if that strategy will succeed but at least Nokia has a chance now.
I’m not saying RIM definitely had to hire someone outside its organization as CEO but it needs to realistically assess its position in the market right now and consider all options.